How important is hope to healing? Can you be healed of a physical ailment through prayer if you have absolutely no positive expectation of spiritual healing? A friend put the question to me recently. I knew she was not asking idly. We talked awhile. Frankly, I don't remember much of what I said. Then, she unexpectedly answered her own question.
She remembered a Bible account leading up to Paul's shipwreck on the island of Melita. Paul was a prisoner, being transported with other prisoners. A terrible storm came up. Everyone fought to keep the ship afloat, taking practical measures like dumping cargo overboard. Then the narrative pauses and observes, "All hope that we should be saved was then taken away" (Acts 27:20). My friend and I both knew the story well enough to jump ahead mentally to the outcome; even though there was no hope, they were saved, apparently through Paul's own faith in God.
An hour or so after this conversation, I went to a midweek church meeting. The individual conducting it had prepared readings from the Bible and from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. To my surprise, the readings were on the subject of hope. They even included the story of Paul's shipwreck! I was amazed at how many different kinds of hope I heard about: "depressed hope," "human hope," "sanguine hopes," "vain" hope, "the hypocrite's hope," "weary hope." Hope that is "a cheat." Even a "desert of human hopes." And hope that has been "taken away."
What role can these play in forwarding - or perhaps thwarting - the healing we seek? What about healing when there is no conviction that it will come? As I pondered this, it occurred to me that it's the type of expectation we have that holds the key. Hoping selfishly for a nasty neighbor to move out, for instance, didn't sound healing at all. And "depressed hope" wouldn't likely be a plus when someone seeks spiritual healing of a physical illness, for it would not indicate the presence of God, of good. But I also had a hunch, perhaps because of the message of Paul's no-hope boat trip, that while depressed hope, or good-riddance-to-a-nasty-neighbor hope, or no hope, wouldn't forward a healing, they also couldn't stop it.
Then this from Science and Health brought clarity to the whole issue: "As a cloud hides the sun it cannot extinguish, so false belief silences for a while the voice of immutable harmony, but false belief cannot destroy Science armed with faith, hope, and fruition" (Pg. 298). Think of that! "Science," which here refers to the law of God, is the certain and sure working of His healing presence and power. It is armed with faith. And hope. And even fruition! The expectation referred to here is obviously God-directed. Christian Science has proved in thousands of cases that sincere hope for healing is blessed by God.
So, can healing happen when there seems to be no hope? I began to see that the question itself is making an impossible assumption. There is no such thing as a condition or situation without hope - that is, without the possibility of healing - because there is no such thing as a condition beyond the reach of God's omnipotence. If such a situation is apparent to us, God's own law of unopposable good will take hold as we pray. This will bring expectation, faith, and fruition!
I began to see that this was the kind of hope I could and should cultivate. Hope that is grounded in trusting God. If ever I am feeling I'm hopeless, can I still come to the kind of conviction of God's healing power that will help and heal? Of course. This is the same expectancy evident in all the healing works of Christ Jesus, and of earnest Christians today. It is Christianly scientific hope, grounded in a spiritual understanding of the laws of God that Jesus demonstrated. It unbreakably links faith and fruition. Healing, even if it seems out of reach, moves closer with the attainment of this hope.
It is as we place our expectations solely in the God who is Love and Life and Truth, to whom we can never turn in vain, that we find just how hope and healing go hand in hand. Healing can happen when things seem their most desperate. "There is no hope" is a hopelessly impossible statement. With God, there is always hope.